Two seniors have been here before. One junior hasn’t.
The Bayfield High School wrestling team will send three boys to the Colorado High School Activities Association Class 3A state wrestling championships Thursday through Saturday at the Pepsi Center in Denver. Garrett Beebe and Jake Sandrey reached this stage one year ago, but it will be a new feeling for Daniel Westbrook when he goes from state wrestling spectator to participant.
“I’ve been thinking about this all week. It’s an amazing feeling to be a state qualifier,” Westbrook said. “My brother made it the last three years and I went to watch. I can tell how big it is, from the stands anyway, but being on the floor I hear is a little different.”
There’s no doubt the bright lights at the Pepsi Center can be intimidating. Sandrey knows firsthand what that feels like, as this will be his third trip to state. He’s never stepped on the podium, though, and he’s ready to change that this year.
“I’ve always been a little nervous,” Sandrey said. “This year, honestly, I don’t. I feel pretty good about where I was put on the bracket, and I don’t think I will have those nerves.”
Sandrey will wrestle at 145 pounds. He is 31-12 this season, and he is set to face Eaton senior Hayden Gavette (31-12) in the first match. Sandrey has his eyes set further down the bracket, as he will hope to face Brandon Damian, a senior from Valley, in the semifinals. Damian beat Sandrey in the first round at 132 pounds last year with a 16-0 technical fall victory and went on the place second. This year, Damian is 33-2 and the top seed in the bracket.
“I know (Damian) hurt his knee, but he still wrestled fine (at regionals),” Sandrey said. “Last year he tech falled me, and this year he beat me 9-0. I’d rather wrestle him than anyone else in the semis.
“But, at state, anything can happen. Brandon Damian could lose in the first round. If you believe you can win, anything can happen at state.”
Beebe went 1-2 at 126 pounds at state last year. Like Sandrey, the senior is hoping to fare much better this time around in his final trip to state. Now at 138 pounds, Beebe (35-10) is slated to open against Jefferson sophomore Nick Gallegos (44-5), who is the second seed in the bracket.
“Usually I’m pretty nervous, but I’m going to try to calm all that down,” Beebe said.
“I need to try to feel comfortable. You can’t make little mistakes. You can’t turn onto your back or anything like that. You have to scramble, but sometimes you can’t scramble too much.”
Beebe is hoping to find a balance to get through the first round and go on a run. He said he will be sad when he weighs in the last time of his high school career, but going out on the podium would be an ideal ending.
Though Westbrook will enter with no previous state experience, he is coming off the best weekend of his wrestling career, as he claimed the 220-pound title at the 3A Region 1 championships in Alamosa. To get there, Westbrook opened with a pin victory against Alamosa’s Logan Thompson, who had beat Westbrook with a pin of his own in a dual meet. Westbrook also beat Pagosa Springs’ Nolan Stretton en route to the regional title. Both Thompson and Stretton are in the bracket at state.
But Westbrook (32-11) will open the tournament against Alameda senior Jacob Segura (25-18). “Going into regionals, I wasn’t as confident as I needed to be,” Westbrook said. “The first match, when I beat the Alamosa kid who beat me in the previous dual, it gave me the confidence I needed to win it.”
Westbrook will root for Stretton to beat top-seed Bart Gruenloh (34-5) of Lamar. Then, Westbrook would have a chance to see Stretton one more time in the semifinals.
“The kid from Pagosa has been beating me, and I’d like to wrestle him again,” Westbrook said. “I beat him once, but he’s beat me twice.”
Regardless of how the rest of the bracket shakes up, Westbrook is ready to step onto the mats and give it all he has. “I don’t want to let myself down,” he said. “I’m going to work as hard as I can so I can say I have no regrets.”